Valentine’s At Home and Virtual Date Night Ideas on a Budget

This Valentine’s Day looks to be a little different, as the global pandemic continues. If you are unable to get out for a Valentine’s date night this year, or feel safer celebrating at home – here are some low cost ways to enjoy Valentine’s Day at home or virtually.

If You’re Celebrating V-Day At Home:

Fine Dining. You can definitely recreate a restaurant experience at home, complete with dressing up for the occasion and actually sitting down and/or being waited on. Take it a step further by printing real menus, get dressed up, set a fancy table, and pick your own restaurant name. Have fun cooking something you typically don’t make together, or if you have children who will be home and want to participate – include them as well and make it a fun family affair.

Ballroom (or any kind of) Dancing. You might not make it out to your local dance studio or any Valentine’s Night Out Parties this year, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still learn how to dance or dance at home and still have fun! Find a YouTube video, clear out a spot on the living room floor, and give it a spin.

Game Night. Maybe it’s not the peak of romance for some, but sitting down to a game of Scrabble or Monopoly together is a great way to spend some quality time while also giving your brain a workout. Get dressed up, serve up some snacks and pour the wine to make it feel even more like a date night.

Virtual Hometown Tours. If you didn’t grow up in the same place as your love, Google Earth offers a great date night opportunity – a virtual tour of your hometown, complete with stops at all the most important places. Even if you are both from the same area, use Google Earth or Google Maps to show your sweetheart around your college campus — or explore a city you’re hoping to visit together someday.

At Home Spa Services. Treat yourself — and your significant other, to some DIY indulgence. Whether you give each other manicures, facials, or massages, it’s bound to be more affordable (and more fun) than it would be in a salon or day spa. Check out this list of spa treatments you can do at home.

If you can’t be with your love in person this Valentine’s Day, here are a few virtual ways to celebrate, or adapt some of these ideas to your at home February 14th plan:

Virtual Coffee (or Cocktails). Zoom and FaceTime make it easy to recreate classic first date ideas like grabbing a drink together, or a cup of coffee while chatting over your drink of choice.

Read to Each Other. This can be romantic whether you’re at home together or apart. If you’re not in the same location, you can read to each other via video chat or over the phone. The options are endless, choose a book neither of you have read before or revisit an old favorite.

Live Stream Concerts and Events. Since the pandemic began, many entertainers have transferred their live shows to streaming services or made them available on their websites. Many are even free! Re-create the concert experience at home with a drink and sport some concert attire. Not to mention the added bonus of being able to hear each other talk during the virtual show and not have to shout over the music.

Virtual Movie Nights. It’s always fun to snuggle up with your sweetheart for a movie, even if it’s on the couch at home. If you’re stuck apart this year, you can spend time in front of the screen together. A browser extension called Teleparty is able to sync Netflix, Disney, Hulu, and HBO videos for multiple viewers while also providing a scrolling text chat along the right side of the screen. Don’t forget the popcorn!

Arts and Crafts. A romantic idea for the daring: paint or draw each other while on a video chat application. If that’s a little too intimidating, you could also spend virtual time together being creative with a craft like knitting, cross-stitch, or something else entirely. Plan to gift each other the products of your art creation!

Some Other Tips: If you’re at home together – put away the phones and digital devices, and look for the joy in the little moments spent together. If you’re spending the holiday apart or virtually – get dressed up anyway, and remember this is only temporary.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Article Source: The Penny Hoarder

 

5 Ways to Financially Thrive in the New Year

The time for “New year, new me” resolutions is here, and we’ve got five (actually attainable) resolutions that you’ll want to keep up with all year long. Read on to find out five ways to make 2021 a financially great year.

Learn a new (financial) language. Does listening to financial talk sometimes feel like hearing a foreign language? Instead of simply nodding along, make a resolution to improve your financial literacy this year. Finally learn the ins-and-outs of money management. There are plenty of resources online that can help you decode the definitions behind personal finance terms. You can even make a Quizlet to help you commit the terminology to memory! If you’re worried about finding the time to teach yourself this new language, try incorporating some financial podcasts into your weekly routine. By listening to financial podcasts, you can improve your finance skills while still going about your daily tasks. It’s a great way to get stuff done and get a better idea of what is going on in your wallet and bank account.

Clear out the clutter. Recurring payments can be a great time saver, but they can also get out of hand very easily. Sit down and comb through your recurring payments so you can know exactly where your money is going and when it’s being taken. Take an especially close look at your monthly subscriptions. How many television streaming services are you subscribed to? Music streaming services? There are countless entertainment streaming platforms out there, but you don’t need to subscribe to all of them. Make a list of your entertainment subscriptions and figure out which ones you actually use and which ones are just cluttering up your monthly or annual payments. This applies to paid store memberships, too — if you don’t shop at that discount warehouse much anymore, don’t forget to cancel the membership card before you get charged for the new year’s renewal!

Get creative. Don’t let yourself feel trapped by the status-quo of savings, there are many ways to get creative with your finances. Need some extra money for tighter areas in your budget but don’t know how where to get it? Look into refinancing your existing Auto Loan from another lender with us! With our low rates, your monthly payment will be more manageable, which means you’ll have more money in your pocket, ready to put to good use.*

Making the switch from a high-interest rate credit card to one of our lower-rate cards could also decrease the amount of money you’re spending per term, freeing up funds to put elsewhere.** There are so many avenues you can take to save money. Get in touch with our Loan Department, and we’ll help you get creative in finding them!

Take up a new (money-saving) hobby. Trying a new hobby can help improve one’s mood and daily motivation, but don’t forget that it could also help your wallet! Want to try improving your culinary skills? Great! Ditch the costly take-out meals and door deliveries, and resolve to cook meals at home. Halting the high delivery costs, taxes, and tips (or gas money for drive-thru and pick-up options) will drastically cut down your monthly expenses, giving you more money to spare. You could also pick up a new hobby that could help increase your income. The internet has given us a wealth of resources when it comes to finding freelance work. Skilled at editing? Explore the world of freelance editing for supplemental income. Got an artistic side? Look into starting up an online shop to sell your handmade goods on sites like Etsy or Facebook Marketplace. The options are exciting and endless (and will provide you with some supplemental income)!

Plan it out! Most people shudder at the word “budget.” It’s never fun to sit down and decide what you can’t spend money on. Instead, why not give yourself the freedom to choose what you can spend money on? This tactic for approaching money management is called a “spending plan,” and it’s a lot less intimidating than a budget. A spending plan gives you a lot more flexibility in your finances while still keeping you focused on covering your monthly essentials.

The process of determining your “non-negotiable” expenses is mainly the same as a budget: you have rent, electric, water, internet, groceries, emergency funds, etc. The difference begins when you determine your flexible categories. For example, entertainment, personal shopping, dining out, date nights, and more. A spending plan gives you the freedom to set ballpark amounts for these categories without restricting you too harshly. As long as you have your monthly non-negotiables covered, how you distribute money from month to month in your other categories doesn’t matter as much. A budget is far more restrictive, which can put you in a panicked mindset of “money is always tight, I have no wiggle room,” whereas, a spending plan gives you the control to say “I have the room to spend a little extra here this month.” Start 2021 establishing a spending plan and giving yourself the freedom to choose where your money should go and how you want to spend it!

*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. Additional terms & conditions may apply. Actual rate may vary based on credit worthiness and term. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a First Financial auto loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. See credit union for details. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. First Financial FCU maintains the right to not extend credit, after you respond, if we determine you do not meet our guidelines for creditworthiness. Current loans financed with First Financial FCU are not eligible for review or refinance.

**APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Online Shopping Tips for This Unusual Holiday Season

This year more so than others – given the pandemic, many people have been shopping online for the holidays instead of in the store. If you’re still shopping and getting hit left and right with emails for online sales, coupons, and deals – keep reading to find out how to save money and shop safely without exposing yourself to online fraud.

  • If you’re using a home computer to order gifts online, first be sure you have the latest antivirus software installed prior to placing any orders.
  • Take time to compare products. To get the best deal, always compare products between different stores. Do some research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews before you click “add to cart.”
  • Check out the seller. Confirm that the seller you are deciding to purchase from is legitimate. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure you can contact the seller (or that you can pay via PayPal on their site) if you have a dispute.
  • Look for coupon codes. Search for the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” Or you can check for deals on their website or research available offers on a site such as retailmenot.com
  • Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protections. Never mail cash or wire money to an online seller. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it is most likely a scam.
  • Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” within any web address stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter any personal or financial information. You should also see a lock icon where the secure website address is too.
  • Keep records of online transactions until you get your purchase, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you won’t have to return the item.

If you follow the above steps when buying online and purchase smart, this season of cyber holiday shopping is bound to be a breeze!

Should you happen to encounter any scams while shopping online, you can report it to the FTC at https://reportfraud.ftc.gov/#/

Happy Holiday shopping!

 

Article Source: S. Walker for Consumer.FTC.gov

Preparing for the Holidays Doesn’t Have to Be a Hassle

The season of holiday shopping is here, and so is the inevitable financial stress — but you don’t have to panic. We’re here to help you conquer the chaos and take control of your finances, so you can give great gifts and feel great about what you spent too.

Budget the Day Away.

The first step for tackling the holiday shopping season is setting a budget. Your budget sets the tone of your whole shopping game plan — what gifts you can buy, which deals to look for, which payment type to use, and more.

Sure, you’ve probably heard the spiel about the importance of budgeting before. It can sound a bit intimidating or overwhelming at times — but it doesn’t have to be. Check out our budgeting guidebook or ask for budgeting help from one of our representatives to make this daunting task easier. The internet is also laden with websites and programs that can do the budgeting for you. Find what works best for you, then set up a spread sheet, scrawl it out in a notebook, or iron it out online. Find your budgeting flow.

Sit down with a nice hot cup of cocoa, wrap up in a cozy blanket, and budget away. Make a night of it and feel confident in your ability to get your finances together. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

Pick Your Weapons of Choice.

There are many ways to fund your holiday shopping. Figure out how much money you have available to spend immediately and what items you will need to buy through credit cards or fund with a holiday loan.

Our advice? Put down the high-interest rate credit cards and check out ours. Our credit cards* feature interest rates significantly lower than the national average; plus, our special holiday loan** can help you to fund your shopping and pay it off responsibly. We understand that our members have a lot of holiday cheer to spread, and we want to help you make it happen.

Start Your List, Check It Twice.

Santa isn’t the only one who should have a list. Get a pen and some paper (or save a note in your phone) and jot down everyone you want to give gifts to this season. Determine how much you can spend for each person first, then brainstorm gifts for each of your names. This is the fun part! Put on Santa’s hat and think of creative ways to show some love to your favorite people.

If you find yourself spreading your budget too thin, go back and adjust the names on your list and the spending amount. Remember, not every gift needs to cost money — don’t underestimate the joy that a homemade gift or a good deed can bring to the holiday season.

Choose Wisely.

You have your gift list, now you need to perfect it. Browse the internet to get an idea of the deals that will be happening near you, either in a store or online.

Compare deals you see for the same item across stores and websites — one company may be selling the item for significantly less than another. You deserve the best deal. Put in the work to find out which stores are promoting the best sales, and make sure the item is still in budget after you factor in taxes and shipping costs.

Finalize Your Plan of Attack.

While many companies offer deals throughout the months of November and December, some are specific to days like Black Friday or Cyber Monday. These two days can easily become chaotic if you don’t have a good game plan.

Research which deals are offered online and which require you to show up in person. Because of health and safety concerns this year, many stores will most likely be shifting to an online Black Friday experience, but you should still double check. Also research store hours for any place you might need to visit in person. Store hours may likely be adjusted for Black Friday and COVID-19 precautions, so keep a close eye on company websites for the latest updates.

Another shopping holiday to look out for is the lesser known but crucially important Small Business Saturday. It falls between Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and it is more important than ever this year. With the pandemic still in effect, many small businesses are struggling. On Small Business Saturday, local businesses usually break out great deals and some even organize seasonal events for their customers. This day is a great way to give back to your community, so look into the local businesses nearest to you and see how you can support them.

Shop Responsibly.

Now that you have a budget, a list, and a plan of attack – you are all set to shop responsibly this holiday season. The holidays are a time for joy, so don’t let your finances stress you out. Instead of panic-spending and budget-breaking, take some time to prepare and research your options, like low-interest credit cards or a holiday personal loan. You’ll be happy you did, especially when those on your gift list and your wallet are thanking you.

*APR varies up to 18% for all Visa Credit Cards when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

**APR = Annual Percentage Rate. APR as low as 6.99%, terms up to 12 months, minimum loan amount is $500, and maximum loan amount is $2,400. A $2,400 loan at 6.99% APR for 12 months would have a monthly payment amount of $207.65. Actual rate will vary based on creditworthiness and loan term. Subject to credit approval. One holiday loan open per member. Refinance option for prior holiday loan is available, see credit union for details. Maximum dollar amount able to borrow is based on creditworthiness and loan term. A First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Personal Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan.

Holiday Shopping Hacks: Your Black Friday Survival Guide

Judging from the massive marketing blitz and predictable purchasing frenzy, one could make the argument that Black Friday is a holiday all its own. The day after Thanksgiving is traditionally considered to be the official start of the holiday season.

Black Friday by the Numbers

With this yearly retail extravaganza just around the corner, you might be asking yourself, “What will an estimated 174 million Americans do on Black Friday this year?” Before you start googling, we’ll save you the research. They’ll spend the day—the entire weekend, actually—shopping. Wait. You knew that already? Fair enough. Did you know that the average Black Friday shopper is expected to spend more than $500? Even though we’re dealing in estimates and averages, that adds up to a lot of people and purchasing!

As online and mobile sales increase (especially this year), traditional Black Friday shoppers may be less than usual – but either way, there’s bound to be lots of shopping going on either in person or online. With millions of people frantically scouring stores for the best deals of the season and even more hunting for deals on their smartphones, a little strategy may help you keep the holiday shopping season merry and bright!

7 Tips for Having the Best Black Friday

While there are probably as many shopping hacks as there are shoppers, we’ve narrowed the suggestions down for you. Here are 7 ideas to help you survive Black Friday with your sanity and your budget intact:

Create a shopping strategy. Since most major retailers advertise their Black Friday specials ahead of time, it’s easy to plan ahead by scanning sales flyers and online promotions. Knowing exactly what you’re looking for will save hours of wandering and wondering.

Get in and get out. Most of the time, it pays to shop slowly and carefully—but not on Black Friday! If you’re going to score the best values at multiple stores, you need to grab the items you want, check out, and head to the next store. The midnight madness is no time for browsing.

Maximize your mobile experience. If you’re planning to take advantage of mobile deals or online specials, you can save time and frustration by downloading all the necessary apps in advance.

Prepare your profiles. How many times have you found a deal online, placed the item in your cart, and then had to waste time setting up a customer profile before checking out? Don’t miss out on limited-time-only deals. Create your profile on websites before it’s time to shop.

Look for the lock. Before you enter your personal details and credit card information on a website, make sure the web address starts with “https” and there’s a closed padlock icon next to address. These details indicate the site is secure. If the address starts with “http” or the padlock is open, see if you can find a deal somewhere else. You don’t want to add potential fraud and identity theft from an unsecure site to your holiday list this year.

Team up for double the fun. Finding amazing bargains is fun—but isn’t it better when you have someone to share in the excitement? If you’re going to engage in shopping shenanigans at 2:00 AM, you might as well do it with your favorite shopping buddy!

Shop early. Shop often. It would be logical to think that Black Friday is limited to—well, Friday. But in an attempt to boost sales, stores like Amazon and Best Buy often run early sales. And with the rising popularity of Cyber Monday, you’ll most likely also find money-saving specials all weekend long!

Hopefully, these ideas will help you save some money this winter holiday season and have a little more fun in the process. To avoid any last-minute budget crunches, talk to us about setting up a Holiday Club account.* Setting aside money throughout the year is a great way to avoid financial stress and focus on spending your time with loved ones and joining in on all the merry festivities!

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All Holiday Club Savings funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the program. Visit firstffcu.com to view full Rewards First program details, and to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart.

 

 

How to Safely Shop for the Holidays this Year

It’s been a stressful year, plus now add the usual hustle and bustle of the upcoming holiday season and you might start to feel a bit of pressure – especially on your budget that might have taken a big hit over the past few months. Fortunately, there are some simple steps that can help make the holiday season a little less stressful. Below are some tips on how to take advantage of holiday shopping trends to make the most of the holidays without getting overwhelmed.

Take advantage of online ordering.

With the colder weather coming, experts are predicting a resurgence in coronavirus cases. Many stores are prepared. They’re encouraging people to shop online while also increasing their capacity for curbside pick-up. There are reasons to take advantage of this service that go beyond health and safety. Often provided as a free service, curbside pick-up is great way to save yourself shopping time. Rather than gathering the items yourself, you can simply drive up and have everything placed in your car for you. Plus, you’ll resist the temptation to buy extra items you see in the store that you don’t really “need.”

Start shopping now.

According to Business Insider, increased online ordering has shipping providers predicting a backlog this season (which most people have probably experienced this year due to the ongoing pandemic). This may cause issues for last minute shoppers who are looking to get their orders in time for holiday celebrations. Another problem we’ve seen this year, is the fact that store inventory is lower and stock may run out faster than usual.  Shopping as early as possible also gives you more opportunities to take advantage of sales, and continue to save for any potential items you might still need as it gets further into December.

Keep gift giving simple.

A still unstable economy means tighter budgets for most people and concerns about spending a large amount of money on gifts. Gift cards are always a simple, practical option – which are easy to buy and send. Gift card recipients will also get the choice to be able to purchase what they truly want or need. All First Financial locations offer Visa Gift Cards available in denominations of $20 to $500, and are just $3.95 per card.* Stop by your local branch drive thru today to get yours!

Combine holiday activities.

Just like summer vacation from school, winter break can add pressure to find safe entertainment options for the family this year. Look for fun and easy ways to get the whole family involved in holiday preparations.  Make decorating into a mini holiday party with festive music. Assign everyone a decorating task and hand out prizes for different categories like “most creative” or “fastest decorator.” Instead of shopping, homemade holiday gifts can be a nice family activity. Another idea is to look for apps that blend entertainment such as reading or games with charitable causes to help kids learn to give to others, especially this time of year.

While the pandemic has changed the way we do things or may celebrate this year, there is still room for holiday joy and family memories. Wishing you and yours a happy upcoming holiday season!

*If the gift card is inactive for 360 days, an inactivity fee of $2.50 per month will be charged to the card – starting from the date of activation. If the card is lost or stolen, the replacement fee is $15.00.

Article Source: Naomi Anderson, CUInsight.com